A Facebook group of calling themselves the Paddle Pirates gathers during the summer months to view the moonrise from the waters of Roosevelt Lake. Photo courtesy of Paddle Pirates
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Kayaking is a great way to explore local waterways

Record snowpack over the winter and spring and record heat this summer offers a glimpse into the yin and the yang that comes with living year-round in Arizona.

Given Globe’s location and with several lakes and rivers a short drive away, there are plenty of options to get out on the water to cool off in the triple-digit heat.

For those who don’t own a boat or have time to devote to extended excursions, many locals find kayaking to be a good option, both for a serene evening paddle or a white-knuckle trip through whitewater rapids.

For the former, local insurance agent and 2022 Globe City Council candidate Matthew Storms and his wife Shelbi have found kayaking to be a good escape and a way to get out of the house to socialize with similar-minded friends.

Storms’ friend Vince Mariscal founded a Facebook group called Paddle Pirates after discovering a Valley group that paddles Canyon Lake. Once he created Paddle Pirates Mariscal invited Storms to join in moonlight paddles on Roosevelt Lake.

“We started doing it at the end of COVID and thought it was safer because we weren’t sharing boats and were spread out,” Storms says. “It’s grown organically since then, but it’s not really a club, club. We just post when the weather’s nice, when the full moon dates are, and then kind of see who shows up.”

The Paddle Pirates like to meet at nearby launch points such as School House Campground or, in the case of the upcoming Aug. 29 excursion, Windy Hill Recreation Site, that are close enough for participants to attend even if they work during the week.

“Those places are a little less busy with boats, so it’s a little bit safer,” Storms says. “We always tell people to bring lights to be safe on the water, then we just go and hang out, talk and chat and then watch the moon come up.”

Organizers bring glow sticks and in certain situations even loan out spare kayaks, if they are available, for people who don’t have them. Storms says there is a core of five or six people who show up fairly regularly, but they’ve had as many as 13 or 14. There was even a pair of paddle boarders on one excursion last year.

Dogs often like kayaking or paddle boarding as much as their owners. Photo courtesy Paddle Pirates

Storms prefers hardshell kayaks and has a vehicle that can handle transport. Given that there are no outfitters in Globe-Miami, he purchased his kayaks at Tractor Supply Hardware and since they get such gentle use, they have worked fine for his purposes.

According to NASA, this August will see two full moons: One appeared on the first of the month and the second, a “Super Blue Moon,” will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 30. The group has plans to go out on Tuesday, Aug. 29 for the Blue Moon Paddling event that can be found on its Facebook page.

Participants must have lights and safety equipment to participate, but otherwise it’s a mellow event that doesn’t go out more than a few hundred yards from the dock.

The Paddle Pirates also avoid cold weather, so no events are scheduled in the winter months.

“It’s not very organized, we just show up and hang out and watch the moon come up,” Storms says. “It’s pretty awesome and the group’s nice.”

Lazing in the moonlight is a good use of kayaks, but for the more adventurous souls amongst us, there are more daring options and a wide range of equipment to get them there.

“I’ve been an outdoors person all my life, an avid bicyclist—road and mountain—so I decided to invest in kayaks because we’re so close to all these lakes and rivers,” says retired orthopedic surgeon Bryan Gunnoe. “I’m not a fisherman, I just paddle to get out in the boonies to enjoy the outdoors.”

Bryan Gunnoe with Gus as a one-year old pup. Gunnoe says Gus has become accustomed to the experience, although it took some training.  Photo courtesy Bryan Gunnoe

Gunnoe and his partner GMT writer Patti Daley moved to Globe in 2015 after Gunnoe accepted a position at Cobre Valley Medical Center. An early retirement left the couple with much free time for the outdoor activities they love, so Gunnoe invested in a pair of inflatable kayaks.

And while he enjoys “getting out in the boonies,” his idea of getting out also includes hitting the rapids whenever he has a chance.

Patti Daley and Bryan Gunnoe at a meet-up event on the lower Salt River (below Saguaro Lake). It is a 3-6 hour easy paddle and is “super popular” says Gunnoe.

He chose inflatables because they were easier to transport and store. His first kayak was one designed for whitewater adventures—he has used it with organized excursions down the Salt River through the Forestry Department—and the second is designed for calmer waters when the pair are looking for leisure on Roosevelt Lake.

“We can decide, spur of the moment, to go out to Roosevelt and within an hour we can be on the water,” Gunnoe says. “We like to go super early in the morning or late in the evening when we can avoid the boats.”

While he enjoys the eastern end of the lake with its shallows, flora and fauna, Gunnoe has been on a mission to hit every body of water or lake he can within driving distance.

Lying between Globe and Show Low on SR77 is one of his favorites, Seneca Lake, which requires a permit from the San Carlos Tribe. But there are plenty of other nearby options such as Apache Lake, Canyon Lake and both the upper and lower arms of the Salt River, which makes its way west through the Superstition Wilderness west to Saguaro Lake.

He particularly enjoys the water up on the Mogollon Rim and the Coconino National Forest and says it is well worth the drive. 

There are several State Parks in every region of the state from north to south and there is even a website devoted to activity at azstateparks.com/kayaking-in-arizona.

As to Gunnoe’s gear choices, ease of transport is essential, but there is always the chance his kayak can spring a leak. He stressed the importance of knowing how to patch his own equipment, mainly if something happens out on the water.

In a graphic reminder of the importance of self-reliance on the repair front, Gunnoe learned an important lesson when a rat chewed a hole through his kayak.

“I was keeping it in the garage semi-inflated and a rat got into it and chewed about a 6-inch hole in my $900 kayak,” Gunnoe says. “I’m kind of a DIY guy and a surgeon and seem to recall Patti teasing me about operating on the kayak. Working on those little holes and trying to reach places was very much like operating, but fortunately, nobody was gonna die.”

Although there are no true outfitters in the Copper Corridor, there are plenty of options down in the Valley.

Riverbound Sports in Tempe, about a mile from the Arizona State University campus, is licensed to operate in the Tonto National Forest and offers services ranging from sales to rentals to organized tours, lessons, and events on the waterways around the Valley. 

Owners Teri and Corey Carlin came to Arizona from Southern California in 1998 and found nowhere in the area that served kayakers and paddleboarders. The couple celebrated 10 years in the business in July.

“When we arrived, there were no resources in the Valley so we eventually quit our day corporate jobs and figured we’d give it a chance,” says Teri, who has been heavily involved in the sport for about 14 years. “This kind of work is not very lucrative, it’s a labor of love.”

Corey still works his day job, but Teri devotes her days to caring for the business and answering phones, even when the business is closed.

She says it took more than a year to get licensed to operate in the Tonto National Forest, and Riverbound has recruited a lineup of licensed, qualified tour guides to lead their excursions.

The shop is open year-round, with reduced winter hours as March through November are the busiest months.

“The best paddling is in the winter though, because there is more to see and it’s less crowded,” she says. “A lot of people see the Salt and don’t understand how the water flows all the time, but it’s very controlled and they do a spectacular job preserving the flows. It’s a very special place.”

A basic start-up kit for the novice kayaker costs between $450 and $550, but the avid sportsperson can spend thousands of dollars on a wide range of equipment and accessories. Beginners can sign up for lessons, and groups can plan tours. 

“We recently did a tour with 40 people and it’s very popular for bachelorette parties,” Teri says. “There are many different types of kayaking and paddleboarding, even paddleboard yoga. It’s a nice, fun way to get out and burn calories.”

The company’s website offers information about everything from river flows to the latest watersport apparel.

For more information, go to riverboundsports.com.


NEW: An outdoor adventure shop, Topo Joes, opened in Globe and rents ATVs and offers a 12-person van for transportation into the Pinals. (or elsewhere.) 

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